The Brotherhood’s Strike… A Reaction
Why did Egypt”s Muslim Brotherhood refrain from participating in the April 6th strike but made a contrary decision by participating in today”s strike?
They claim that things were not clear with respect to the first strike and that their followers do not participate in protests whose organizers are anonymous, and just as they could not hold their people responsible for the mistakes of others, they also did not wish to climb on the backs of other political groups!
However, the fact is that today”s strike is no different from the previous one; the calls for a strike were initiated by young political and legal activists using websites to disseminate their call. They themselves set the date of the previous strike and also decided on its mechanisms without coordinating with any political party, religious association or civil organization. They chose 6 April to coincide with a previously announced workers” strike demanding wage raises in al-Mahalla al-Kubra.
Is the vision of the strike clearer now for the Brotherhood? The movement supreme guide Mohammed Mehdi Akef”s announcement to participate in today”s strike a few days seems to be a reaction rather than an action. There is no big difference between today”s strike and the previous one, or between those calling for the former and the latter. At the same time, the announcement by Kefaya and other political parties (under construction) such as Karama, to join today”s strike does not vindicate the Brotherhood”s clarity of vision or enable it to convince people that things today have become clearer with regard to strikes especially that Kefaya and Karama had to a certain extent participated in the previous strike as well.
Moreover, the rhetoric of these two groups has always been sharp toward the regime and government measures. At this point, it is worth noting the difference between the Brotherhood”s position regarding the two strikes. The first was organized before verdicts were issued in what is known in the media as the “Brotherhood funding case,” in which the movement”s deputy supreme guide, Kheirat Shater, and other leading figures inside and outside the country were indicted. It is certain that the Brotherhood had hoped that its boycotting the strike would earn it the government”s favor in the form of mild sentences against Shater and his colleagues. However, since the verdicts were the toughest ever since the Brotherhood”s cases were transferred to the Military Tribunal in 1995, the Brotherhood”s reaction came in the form of a decision to take part in today”s strike. It is true that the Brotherhood chief ordered his followers to stay at home and refrain from participating in any protest activities on the streets, raising banners at gatherings, or repeating the slogans of today”s strike. However, the Brotherhood”s position is revealed through its decision to participate even if this participate was ineffective since its followers could have stayed at home without making an announcement of such a decision to avoid a violent reaction from the government.
The Brotherhood”s new position may be understood as a message to the government in which the movement claims to possess influence over society by keeping thousands at home just as it could take them to the streets if need be. However, there is nothing new in such an interpretation. It is certain that the movement has resorted to provoking the government in response to Shater”s seven-year sentence since today”s strike coincides with President Husni Mubarak”s birthday. Still, the Brotherhood”s position neglects the fact that merely “staying at home” cannot pass on such an occasion without a government response against the movement.
Consequently, the coming weeks and months will certainly see a response to the Brotherhood”s most recent move. The Brotherhood will respond to the response which will invoke another response from the government and so forth. The two sides seem to be aware that this situation is chronic since neither side is capable of rendering the other a fatal blow, unless each arrives at the realization that its continuity depends on eliminating the other. Only then will each mobilize its forces to deliver the fatal blow to its opponent.